Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Vice Admiral William S. Sims, Commander, United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, to Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, Commander, Southern Ireland

November 9th.1918.      

My dear Admiral,

          Your letter of the 7th1 just received. I think you must have misunderstood what I said about Heligoland. It is more than probable that the peace terms will require the turning over of Heligoland to the Allies, to be disposed of by them. What I had in mind in writing to you was the discussion that took place in the Inter-Allied Naval Council as to the desirability of demanding the surrender of Heligoland as one of the terms of the armistice. During the continuance of the armistice it would not have been possible to re-arm it with guns installed in the same manner as those of Gibraltar, so that in case the war had been renewed it could not have been held.

          Of course it goes without saying that if the Island could be held in the manner you suggest against any bombing raid that could be brought against it it would considerably reduce the area that Germany would be free to mine in case of war. However, I think there is not very much doubt now that Germany will not be in a condition for making war for a hundred years to come and perhaps never. If she splits up into a number of relatively independent Governments she will never again become a menace to civilization.

          There will doubtless be a great many difficulties in arranging the final terms of peace among all the Allies concerned. I have been somewhat surprised to find that there appears to be a growing sentiment among the Allies in favor of the United States being responsible for the good Government of certain countries or colonies on this side. This has not been touched upon in the Press yet, as it is not considered desirable that there should be any question of this kind which might cause preliminary discussions and dissensions among the Allies. I doubt if Europeans could imagine how much of a surprise this proposition would be to America. A number of people in London and in Paris seem to think that America ought to be charged with the responsibility for the Government of Armenia and for maintaining the internationalization of the Dardanelles and possibly for some other of the countries and colonies that are not capable of efficient self government.

          As far as I can make out the attitude of the Britishers who advocate this believe that Great Britain should only be called upon to ensure the decent Government of those colonies and countries that are essential to her for the protection of the lines of communication of the Empire. Of course I do not know much about any of these questions, but the present agitation, though it has not yet come to the surface seem to indicate the nature and seriousness of the problems that will have to be solved by the International conference.

          I am glad to say that I have not yet run across anybody who believes a League of Nations is possible, that is, in the accepted interpretation of the phrase by Simon Pure Pacifists. That some sort of international body, to meet at least periodically, will be constituted, I have no doubt. These are certainly interesting times in which we live.

          Everybody seems to think that the Germans will accept the terms of the armistice, hard though they are. In fact the military men believe that she has absolutely no alternative, even leaving out of consideration the interior political conditions in Germany. They say that the recent developments on the Western Front are such as to render it wholly impossible for her to withdraw her armies under fire without a great disaster this particularly as Maubergs and Mons are about to fall into the Allies hands and the important line of communication running through Mezieres, Sedan and Metz has been cut.

          This last operation has cost us many sad losses. It had been the opinion that it would be impossible to force the enemy back through the Argonne forest not only on account of the great difficulty of the terrain but also because the troops operating in this area could be supplied only over one main line road. It was hardly thought possible that this road could carry supplies sufficient for the number of troops necessary. There is no doubt that the military opinion was sound, assuming that the attacking forces were not willing to make greater sacrifices than troops are usually called upon to bear. That these sacrifices were necessary is but too apparent. Of course I do not know much about details at present but enough to know that they were very severe. It turned out, as was to be expected, that the road was not sufficient to supply all the needs of the troops. Horses had to be slaughtered to supply the troops notwithstanding the scarcity of horses at this time. However, there is nothing succeeds like success and the cutting of the important railway line has been accomplished.

          Let us hope that the armistice will be signed within the time limit allowed and that all further killing may be avoided.

          Please give my best love to the only neice,2 and believe me,

Always very sincerely yours,

|sn:TL, DLC-MSS, William Sims Papers, Box 47. Addressed below close: “Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, R.N./ Admiralty House,/ Queenstown.”

Footnote 1: See: Bayly to Sims, 7 November 1918.

Footnote 2: Miss Violet Voysey, Bayly’s niece.

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